Category Archives: Photographers


Source: ERNST HAAS ESTATE | COLOR: FLORA (Accessed 17.1.2016)

Ernst Haas, an Austrian born photography who emigrated via Paris to America just after the war,was a pioneer of colour photography.  It has been said that before Haas there was no coloured photography, only coloured photos.  He arrived in New York in 1950 he was invited by Robert Capa to join Magnum photos.  This was the heyday of photojournalism but Haas did bit pursue colour as photojournalism.  He portrayed the essence of New York in his presentation of the city scape, through posters, signs and what is loosely termed “street photography” all in colour.  He was given an unheard of amount of coverage in LIFE magazine – a whopping 24 page spread and it was his work that formed the Museum of Modern Arts firs Colour Retrospective.

Once he had changed colour photography forever, he began to experiment with movement, moving with the camera to create the feeling of movement.  He started with bullfights but quickly moved on to other subjects.

I attempted to replicate the way Haas captured movement in the Alnwick Garden Bamboo Maze.


Race Cars, Indiananpolis 500, 1957. Haas E.


Alnwick Garden, Alnwick. 2016.  Wearn L.

Whilst I made no attempt to study how Haas had achieved his capture of motion by moving with the camera the experiment was interesting and showed me that it really is not as easy as it seems.

Haas continued to travel the world capturing sacred sites, shrines, dances of indigenous people for magazines, books and films.   He also ran workshops and received honours in almost every year of his life until his death in 1986.


Jo Spence Study Visit

The visit took place at the Stills Gallery in Edinburgh, led by tutor Wendy McMurdo.   Wendy had arranged for gallery director Ben Harman to give a brief introduction to the exhibition.  In the event Ben stayed for most of the morning giving an excellent commentary on the curation and history of Spence’s work.

Before the visit I had done a bit of research on Jo Spence and had formed a kind of affinity with her as a person.  Jo was a political activist and feminist who challenged the “norms” of gender, sexuality, immigration and inequalities in the 1980s.


Image result for jo spence: Jo Spence on the front of Spare Rib magazine.

Through her diverse analytical documentary projects including her own struggle with cancer, the exhibition confirms for me what I had perceived in my research.  The exhibition was divided into one of her last works of self-portraiture which includes photo therapy (a technique she developed with Rosy Martin to work through personal issues of sexuality, family and class), her early work in the 1970s  in her Children’s Educational Workshops, developed with collaborator Terry Dennett. and a section entitled “The Polysnappers” which was a collaborative work with fellow students Mary Ann Kennedy, Jane Munro and Charlotte Pembrey called Family, Fantasy and Photography for their degree show. This work has been unseen for 35 years.

Image result for jo spence children's educational work

Children’s Educational Work contact sheet

The exhibition was raw, powerful and impressive.  It was superbly curated and a credit to the gallery for bringing together the work of this important social documentary photographer.  Skye Sherman in her column in The Guardian describes Spence’s work, “As raw as a scraped shin”  and I think this sums it up perfectly for me.  It hurts, makes us feel uncomfortable and sorry (for ourselves and maybe for others too).


Image result for jo spence dis-ease

Spence using plastic skeleton’s in a humerous way in her Final Project  series

My affinity with Spence began by recognising in her many of the women I knew in the 80s who were also challenging the accepted norms and stereotypes in society.  As a social science graduate  of the 1990s, I also identified with the struggle to challenge those norms documented in the exhibition.  I was particularly looking forward to the Children’s Educational Workshops she led.

It was in fact The Polysnappers that really stood out for me a pictorial documentary using both original photographs of Spence and her fellow students alongside contemporary newspaper cuttings and advertisements.  In this post-feminism era this work is important in reminding us how far life has changed for women and those with different sexual persuasions but reminds us how things have remained very much the same for many sections of society.  Although, some things may have changed it is important that we remember how things used to be and how things haven’t changed much e.g. for the young, those who are disadvantaged and living in challenging circumstances, and immigrants.  Many of the topics depicted in Family, Fantasy and Photography can still be seen making headlines in todays newspapers.

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In my view this work should not be lost and should be on permanent display somewhere.

La Gacilly Photo Festival, Morbihan, Brittany: Japan

I first came across this annual photo festival in 2015.

The pretty town of La Gacilly in the Morbihan district of Brittany has for the past thirteen years, hosted an annual photo festival.  The exhibition is outdoors and exhibits can be seen throughout the town.  The cosmetic company of Yves Rocher Foundation has it’s headquarters there and whose goal is “the protection of nature”. and it strongly supports the festival. The Rocher company has it’s herb garden in La Gacilly where it grows flowers and plants for use in it’s products.  It is here in the garden where a large proportion of the exhibits are displayed.  A visit to the festival is like attending numerous exhibitions (31) and I will document my visit in parts covering the three themes of the exhibition.

There were three themes for 2016, Japan, Oceans and Environmental issues.  The main focus was on Japanese photography which the organisers state is often ignored.  In addition to the main themes there are categories for colleges and schools and also for three up and coming young photographers chosen by a panel of the organising committee.

This first review is of Japan and I have to agree I came into the description of the organisers of not really knowing or having seen many Japanese photographers.  I loved them all for various reasons.  The dedication of Ohyama, the simplicity of Ueda and the documentary of Tanumasoj.

The Japanese photographers:

Yukio Ohyama: who has dedicated his life work to photographing Mount Fuji and there were 3 enormous installations on the wall of two buildings.

Mount Fuji, La Gacilly

Mount Fuji, La Gacilly2

Shoji Ueda: who returned to the sand dunes near to his home in Tottori as his backdrop to photograph over and over again his family and friends and creating what has been described as as series of stills as if from a film strip.  He developed a particular surrealist style which made him famous. However, The Guardian  (accessed 17.8.2016) in December 2015, hailed his book as “the most beautiful, surprising photobook of the year” and which included shots from other of his photographic series.

The shot below is typical of Ueda’s style with vast empty space and simple composition.

downloadShoji Ueda (accessed 17.8.2016)

Takeyoshi Tanumasoj: With the ascension of Hirohito to President in 1945, a new society was created in Japan.  Photographers moved to this new era by abandoning beginning to capture reality as opposed to the old style of propaganda romanticism of previous imagery which hid the real Japan.  Takeyoshi, inspired by Cartier-Bresson  immortalised the shift to modernism.  His street scenes captured in “the decisive moment” style documented the changes in the Japanese urban population as they began to adopt a Western lifestyle. I particularly like this image that captures the “modern” young women looking disapprovingly as their traditionally dressed counterparts.


Takeyoshi Tanumasoi

The three Japanese photographers that I have described above are only a few on display at La Gacilly.  What I observed about all three photographers was that they discovered a style which worked and became famous for their series in the chosen style.  However, it did not prevent them from going on to develop other creations which were in at least moderately different and at greatest totally different to what they originally became famous for.

There were more Japanese photographers exhibiting and all had something credible and often incredible to say, from the changing world of Japan and the early diplomatic exchanges with Europe, to the busy cityscapes and beach scenes and the tsunami and nuclear disasters of the country.  Some of which I will cover in my review of the themes.

I found the photography often moving and iconic and if you are travelling in Brittany before the end of September (or between June and September 2017) I would highly recommend a visit to La Gacilly (but beware it gets crowded on August Bank Holiday weekend – the one nearest to 15th August).,+France/@47.7724061,-2.2245041,12z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x480fa242eb6c30d3:0x6062024848c53b24!8m2!3d47.7651619!4d-2.1312


Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle is an acclaimed cinematographer, particularly renowned for his hazy lighting and saturated colours.  An Australian who started as a photographer and who then became famous for his cinematography work particularly with Wong Kar-Wai an eccentric, non-conformist Chinese film director.   Although, Doyle makes unusual use of light, by comparison to Sally Mann his images are tame. They have a beauty which tends to focus on  eyes and faces which increases the mood he is trying to create for the viewer.

Doyle recommended studying the ‘beauty of artificial light on people’s faces’  (Expressing Your Vision – course notes p. 83).  In the film “In the Mood for Love”, Doyle makes the most of his advice with the use of over-head lights and table lights to highlight facial features and in so doing creates a sense of mystery and intrigue,  Doyle often shoots through doorways and openings, not only to frame the shots but also inviting the viewer into his peep-hole to add to the mystery.   In his creative use of lighting Doyle also creates a certain melancholy effect in the film.  I first watched this film with no English sub-titles and not speaking Chinese, I had no idea what was being said but suffice to say I picked up the plot through the expressions on faces and the way the lighting encouraged me to ask more of what was going on.  I watched it a second time with sub-titles and this more or less confirmed the conclusions I’d reached.

Jeffery Saddoris on the website “faded and blurred” says of Doyle:

His (Doyle)  use of light and colour meld beautifully to create a remarkably visceral canvas on which the stories of the films are allowed to play out against.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that Doyle’s work often becomes a character in and of itself – a supporting actor …….. and helps to add drama to the narrative.” (Saddoris J. 

On the same website Saddoris quotes and links to an interview in American Cinematographer magazine where Doyle says,

“not only does art come from hard work, not merely waiting for inspiration to strike, but that the entire process should be as personal as possible”. (Doyle C.)  By this I assume that like many photographers Doyle spends a long time in planning, visualising and practising the shot he wants to create.

JEFFERY SADDORIS (accessed 02/07/2016).

I would have liked to see more of Doyle’s photography but apart from a few independent studio exhibitions, which only reveal a few images there seems to be very little on the web.

Doyle is a rather controversial character who describes himself in an IndieWire interview as the Keith Richards of Cinematography and goes on to criticise with contempt some of the cinematography in some Oscar Award winning films.

(accessed 02/07/2016)

Sally Mann

Research Point

Sally Mann is an American photographer, famous for her black and white large frame photographs where she explores things close to her, including her own children and landscapes depicting death and decay.

Her collection of images of young girls “At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women”  record the emotional confusions and development of her subjects at that age.  All images are  shots of the young women.  This book published in 1988 attracted critics who claimed they were pornographic.  However, this was mild criticism compared to the controversy that subsequent publications “Immediate Family” (1992) and “Still Time” (1994)  attracted, which included shots of her own children and the beginning of her exploration into death, injury, sexuality and decay.

Mann claims that she tried to portray childhood innocence through the eyes of a mother and in an interview with SuburbX she states that her images cannot be described as sentimental but are “very, very romantic and very tough”.  There is little doubt that her style of photography can be disturbing.

In the SuburbX interview Jiang Rong (interviewer), asks if there is a link between  photography and poetry, which Mann studied at university. Her reply is interesting when she says that some photographs are linked, as they condense information while others are like “Ezra Pound”.  In fact there are several parallels between photography and poetry in the interview, with references to Emily Dickinson and Yeats as well as Pound.

I am assuming that by her reply Mann means Pound’s development and use of Imagism, which is described as the use of clear, precise, and sharp language producing an economy of language in his poems.  Is that what Mann is trying to achieve in her photography?  There seems to be evidence of this type of Imagism in the Body Farm collection.  Where there is no need to explain the image further than what is presented as perhaps a “succession or creative moments”, words sometimes used to describe Imagism



Sally Mann, 2000-2001 (accessed 20.06.16)

All of Mann’s photography has a sense of the mysterious and although in the interview, she states that she is “peeling back the layers to reveal the truth” she also says of her Immediate Family images that they “tell truths, but truths ‘told slant’, an Emily Dickinson parallel (Accessed 12th January 2017).   Mann also claims not to seek the crisp and clear image that most photographers are doing but is more interested in creating the mysterious and whimsical quality to her images.

Mann’s range of subjects is diverse ranging from the children and family shots, some documenting her husband’s muscular dystrophy decline, battlefields and killing fields, through to the mystical capture of the land in Southern Landscapes.  Whatever the subject, the use of light is paramount in her images.  It is obvious that the aim of all of this photography is not to capture crisp and sharp images but to create strange and unpredictable images.

I find some of Mann’s photographs deeply disturbing and thought provoking. The parallel between Imagism and photography may account for why I have struggled with the message that Mann is trying to get over.




The Decisive Moment: My Thoughts (Research Point)

Before you go any further, give some careful thought to the ‘decisive moment’ debate and note down where you stand (at the moment, anyway) in your learning log. You’ll come back to this in Assignment Three.


I have struggled with this because when I first read the “definition” of “The Decisive Moment” as described by Henri Cartier-Bresson, I instinctively felt it was too narrow and whilst I admire Bresson’s work I do not necessarily agree with the amount of luck or intuition required to capture these shots.  In fact it seems that Bresson himself “set up” the shot if only by identifying the frame in which he wished to capture a “moment” and then waiting hours for it to appear!  To me the “decisive moment” in a literal definition is something that is in the moment and as such may well be missed because it is fleeting.

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson,Foreword,” The Decisive Moment

Bresson made the term famous because of his ability to capture such shots and in doing so influenced photojournalism in the 20th century.

However, Ghazzi in an article suggests that the term is “more a cliche than a reality even for it’s creator”.  He goes on to say however, the decisive moment cannot be ignored because of the impact it has had on photojournalism.  The decisive moment is a small and unique opportunity for a photographer to produce interesting and sometimes humorous moments through the lens. (accessed 25.2.2015)

There is nothing in this world that does not have
a decisive moment.  Cardinal de Retz (b.1613 – d.1679)

Source: The Decisive Moment: Understanding Convergence | FYNN[i]

The concept of the decisive moment is difficult to understand as it can be interpreted in a number of ways and the difficulty in capturing the elements that Bresson describes can be a mammoth task with a lot of luck thrown in.  For this reason some question the literal translation of what is meant by the decisive moment.

Eric Kim[ii], in his zonezero blog “Debunks the Myth of the Decisive Moment”  (accessed 28.2.2015)

In his blog Kim, publishes the contacts sheets of several of Bresson’s shoots which show that he did not just turn up at a location and capture the precise moment in one shot.  It appears from the contact sheets that he took several shots of the scene from different perspectives taking many shots to get that iconic one. This is also the view of  John Barbiaux[iii] in his article Setting the trap for Great Shots. (accessed 28.2.2015)

Where he too has studied the Magnum Photos contact sheets and concludes that Cartier-Bresson would wait at the perfect set up and the perfect subject to enter the luck involved. scene.  Barbiaux also suggests that choosing the right scene reduces the amount of luck involved.

A google search for Henri Cartier-Bresson contact sheets revealed that many of the Magnum and other photographers used this method to choose the decisive moment. (accessed 28.2.2015).

With that in mind I was more comfortable with the concept.

[i] Fynn S (2012) “The Decisive Moment : Understanding Convergence”, SudioFynn  September 2012

[ii] Kim Eric (2014), Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment””Eric Kim Street Photography Blog , May 23, 2014

[iii] John Barbiaux (2015),  Street Photography.